Monday, March 16, 2009

Chapter 1 recordings

Record your chapter 1 conversation at Gcast.....

Monday, December 15, 2008

CFF News for December 2008

Fairview High School CFF teachers welcomed guests into their classroom December 11, 2008, during a showcase event to share the transformations that are occurring with the help of the CFF initiative. FSD School Board members, administrators, FSD Booster officers and members of our community visited technology-infused classrooms to witness engaging learning environments. Fairview teachers were excited to share the authentic, problem-solving activities in which their students were applying higher-order thinking, learning, and technology skills.

Teachers are now able to engage our students by using online tools like the class Wetpaint wiki and Diigo that you saw in Mr. Brinling’s room or the Wikispace that Mr. Sanford shared. Students can collaborate and peer edit their writing using advanced tools in Word or with Google docs as they illustrated in Mr. Lane’s class. In Mrs. Magraw’s science class, collaborating students were able to use the laptops to access files in a shared network drive to analyze their lab assignments and to determine any errors in their problem-solving. Mrs. Simkowski’s students shared their ideas on the Promethean board. Mrs. Groff’s newly installed Promethean board featured a sliding rail system in “beta version” that Mr. Muye’s team developed and implemented in order to maximize the board space in the classroom.

Mr. Amendola’s students were working together to gather survey data and then analyze that data using Excel to experience authentic applications of living within a budget. Mr. Masterson’s students “flew” across the nation using Google Earth to locate the Bicentennial Tower on Dobbin’s Landing and the building at 100 State Street to determine height through shadow lengths. His students then used Geometer’s Sketchpad to demonstrate their answers for the assignment. These dynamic classes not only are exciting, but also they extend our students' thinking skills into higher-order levels.

Our students are learning in different ways.
Click here to watch a video published on TeacherTube called “Learning to Change, Changing to Learn.”

Can technology save money, too? Yes! A non-profit organization called has developed an online resource called Flexbooks (as of now in math, physics, and biology) so teachers can select chapters and create their own digital resources based on their curriculum and their students’ needs. These resources can be accessed online or printed on demand. Many school districts spend $100,000 a year on new textbooks; consider what districts may save by using resources that include only the chapters that are required by their curriculum!

Mr. Brinling’s wiki:
Mr. Sanford’s wiki:
Googledocs: (click on More, and then Google documents)
Google Earth tour:
TeacherTube: (Type in Learning to Change Changing to Learn in the search box.)

CFF News for November 2008

November 13, 2008

As I write this announcement, eighty new Lenovo laptops and two new carts are being prepared in our library for installation in math, science and English classrooms!Special thanks to Fairview’s Technology Director Brian Junker and to Scot Layman for facilitating a successful rollout. Much preparation occurs in the background that may not be recognized very often. Thanks, too, to our Facilities Director Dave Muye and his maintenance team members Randy Fedei and Preston McKeen, seven new projectors and five new Promethean Boards are being installed in the high school.

The teachers who have volunteered to participate in the grant also have attended a regional training, during which time teachers learned about numerous web 2.0 tools and 21st Century software. Teachers selected sessions to learn to use Geometers’ Sketchpad, Google docs, Inspiration, Audacity and Photo Story, Promethean Activstudio, Discovery Education (United Streaming), and Google Earth. If you do not know what these terms mean, they are new resources that teachers are using to transform Fairview’s classroom instruction by using collaborative, engaging, and interactive activities.

Additionally, CFF teachers also devoted a great day of training to learn about and enhance Promethean board skills and to develop interactive learning materials for their students. Our staff members are learning more than they ever imagined!

What’s next? Video conferencing! Through the IU5 grant LEARN Initiative, Fairview School District received a video conferencing camera. Fairview Middle School students have participated in two simulations using the video conferencing technology already! We also are in the process of investigating inviting some formal programs that can offer our students distance learning opportunities. There are regional universities who are interested in developing distance learning foreign language programs with Fairview High School.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The CFF Mission Statement?
"Wake Up Everybody"
Written by the prolific writing team of McFadden/Whitehead/Carstarphen, and performed by Harold Melvin and the The Blue Notes in 1975:

Wake up everybody no more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin' time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There's so much hatred, war an' poverty
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children teach em the very best you can.

The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me.

Special thanks to Thomas, the CFF coach in Moshannon Valley SD for sharing!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the CFF coaches' listserv, a discussion thread began in May 2008 about teachers who oppose moving from a traditional lecture approach to 21st century instructional methods. The assertion has been made that high school teachers who lecture should not change their presentaiton stratgies because college professors still use lecture as the most common means of intruction and that high schools should be preparing students for college.

Another explantion for continuing with lecture-only methods was to cover the most material in the shortest amount of time. The following excerpted response was offered by an experienced teacher and CFF coach:

Don McQuade, professor at Babson College, said, "It is not the job of the teacher to cover the material. It is the job of the teacher to get the students to uncover the material." .... I ask [teachers] to become metacognitive about their teaching—"After you cover the material, how much do you think the students retain from your coverage?" "How do you know that they put this material into long term memory?" "How much have you retained from the lectures you were subjected to?" "Would you want your son or daughter to be sitting in your class?" "What information do you dispense to your students that cannot be dispensed by a computer?"
As for the preparing the students to be subjected to boring college lectures, I understand the concern and have thought about that reality many times.

So we prepare the students for bad teaching by employing bad teaching ourselves? I recently heard a piece on NPR radio that many colleges are misleading prospective students about the promises of a college education. Content aside there are studies out there that demonstrate that many college graduates not only do not retain the content, but do not develop higher level thinking skills in college courses in which the professor does just what your teacher describes.

So what is our ethical responsibility here? Do we prepare students for "best bad practices?" Do we hand out alcohol in the high school cafeteria because many college students drink?

....[Some] college professor[s] ... complain about the quality of student who gets to college and is seemingly unprepared. My retort is that in high school we have to educate everyone. Why did the college accept this underachiever? Even more significant is why is the college awarding a degree to the student who enters unprepared? Many college adjunct (and perhaps regular) professors are under pressure to pass students because the college does not want to lose the tuition. Money may have a greater impact on the collegiate level than it does on the public schools.

My final thought on this: I suspect that the good student who has learned well from creative and challenging teachers in high school can readily adapt to being bored in a college classroom. How hard is it to sit in class, listen to the droning, and take notes? Even if one doesn't take notes, there is always the overachiever who will provide the absentee student with the class info. A few years ago a Penn State professor became angry because many of his students did not attend his lectures and simply took his tests and passed. That was because one enterprising student taped his lectures and sold/distributed them to his classmates. And these notes were passed on from year to year. If I were the dean, I would find an easy solution to this problem which would be explained in an office dialogue with the professor.

That's my two cents. Ralph

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The first year is practice; the second is more practice!

Year two of CFF in FHS begins with more excitement, more volunteers, more support from the Board, new tools, new applications, and a desire to move foreward to the brink of that cliff called 21st century thinking and learning. This year, though, I know that the cliff has stairs, benches on which we can sit and enjoy the view, and a long line of fellow teachers, librarians, principals, superintendants, parents, students, and others on the same path who are passionate about moving forward with Governor Rendell's high school reform program.

One issue I consider often is adding new ideas, philosophies, practices, tools, and thinking to our teachers' classrooms. There is a concern, I think, that teachers are expected to do everything they have done before and add to their activities, planning, and preparation. What takes the most time, though, is reflecting on the activities, resources, and approaches that have worked best in the past; that reflection will direct and drive our instruction for our students today.

We should carefully select those strategies that best support our students' understanding of the most important concepts of our curriculum. We should use the best tools and resources that help our students reach our goals in ways that they best learn and apply their new knowledge. We really do need to put aside what works best for us or what we have done for the last twenty years and instead focus on what we must do to help today's students.

I think that past practices of revising curriculum every ten years is over. We may need to revise our curriculum and strategies every semester! These factors will change the structure of teachers' careers, schedules, and preparation more than any blog, wiki, or online test ever will! We really do need to change the way we teach, the way we think about teaching, and the way we prepare to teach. We're not making these changes alone, either. We are making them as a team, as a group of dedicated professionals, as a group of risk-takers. Pretty cool, huh!
We can decide to help make decisions about the reform, or we can sit back and let someone else make the decisions that affect our students, our classrooms, and our jobs. Wow. Imagine the possibilities!